Defendants often want to be excused from attending court. This might be, for example, because they must drive for hours (or even days) to reach the courthouse or they don’t want to miss work or school. It is up to the judiciary whether a person can be excused from court and policies vary by county and judge.
Some judges and counties require defendants to appear for every single court date unless specifically excused from attending court by a judge. When this is the case, defendants should plan to be present for every court appearance and should not ask a judge to be excused from court unless there is a compelling reason to do so.
Some judges will defer to the prosecutor and defense counsel on this issue to a certain degree; if both lawyers agree that the defendant may be excused from court, then the defendant will not need to appear. There will be no such agreement when the parties know a given court appearance is one where the defendant must be present (such as for a plea agreement) or it is one where the judge always requires the defendant to be present.
The defense attorney has no power to excuse a person’s presence from court. Ultimately, it is always up to a judge. If a judge allows the parties to reach an agreement as to this, defense counsel still must get the prosecutor’s agreement on the matter. The only thing the defense attorney can do is ask for permission. If the judge or the prosecutor denies that permission, then the defendant must be present. If the defendant fails to appear, he will likely receive a warrant for his arrest and risk forfeiture of the bond posted in his case.